Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 27, 2018 at 9:43 pm.

Cyclone freshmen may see the field against Drake

Iowa State doesn’t have much at stake in its regular-season finale this weekend.

The Big 12 schedule is over. The Cyclones, No. 23 in the CFP rankings, have already secured bowl-eligibility. And the game against Drake was a late addition to the schedule, made possible by a weather-related cancellation in the season opener and a desire to play a 12th game.

So while the coaching staff and players are saying all the right things about not taking the Bulldogs lightly, the more likely outcome is that this becomes a way to get some of the younger players more snaps and give the upperclassmen one final sendoff in front of the hometown crowd.

“It’s not like you’re playing a spring game or something like that,” coach Matt Campbell said.

“You’re going to play a game against an opponent that will come in here and their kids will want to play — what a great opportunity for them and us. We’re treating it just like we would any other football game.”

That’s all well and good, but it’s no surprise that a lot of the questions Campbell is facing this week concern which freshmen might see some action against the FCS opponent. The new rule that allows freshmen to play up to four games while still retaining a year of eligibility will come into play here.

Four true freshmen have already burned their redshirts, and there are no regrets about any of them. It’s tough to see how the Cyclones even make a bowl game without quarterback Brock Purdy, for example, and Mike Rose’s ability to start all 11 games at linebacker provided an instant boost to the defense.

It doesn’t sound like the team intends to play freshman defensive end Will McDonald, since he’s already appeared in the requisite four games. Outside linebacker Chandler Pulvermacher has played in only three, so he could see time against the Bulldogs as long as he doesn’t suit up for the bowl game. Nobody else is in danger of burning their redshirt.

This could mean more time for players like offensive lineman Trevor Downing, who was competing for a spot in the rotation in August before the coaching staff elected to hold him in reserve.

Who knows — this could even be the week that quarterback Re-al Mitchell finally sees the field. The staff has teased this possibility for weeks, so fans might actually get the chance to see what he can do as an athletic change-of-pace quarterback.